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Little Fish: A Memoir

Little Fish: A Memoir

5.0 2
by Ramsey Beyer

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Told through real-life journals, collages, lists, and drawings, this coming-of-age story illustrates the transformation of an 18-year-old girl from a small-town teenager into an independent city-dwelling college student. Written in an autobiographical style with beautiful artwork, Little Fish shows the challenges of being a young person facing the world on her own for


Told through real-life journals, collages, lists, and drawings, this coming-of-age story illustrates the transformation of an 18-year-old girl from a small-town teenager into an independent city-dwelling college student. Written in an autobiographical style with beautiful artwork, Little Fish shows the challenges of being a young person facing the world on her own for the very first time and the unease—as well as excitement—that comes along with that challenge.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Beyer’s debut, a graphic novel–style autobiography, takes a potentially edgy subject—the first year at an art school full of outsiders and punk fans—and treats it in a wholesome way. She combines sheaves of typewritten lists (artifacts from her own first year) with naïf-style panel sequences to trace her transition from smalltown Michigan “little fish” to settled-in student in Baltimore. She writes surprisingly little about art and almost nothing about her own work. Instead, journal entries describe her feelings about where she comes from (“I have really supportive parents who encouraged me to go to art school”) and her social encounters: “Being here is just weird sometimes. Everything is uncertain. I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know how people feel about me.” As freshman year unfolds, Ramsey realizes a boy likes her, and she allows herself to like him back: “The main source of my happiness right now? Daniel and his cute face and how dorky he is.” Beyer’s b&w cartooning has a homey indie comics vibe, but the memoir’s essentially placid nature and run-of-the-mill observations make for a muted account. Ages 12–up. (Sept.) ¦
From the Publisher


* YALSA Outstanding Book for the College Bound  * IPPY Independent Voice Award Winner 
• Texas Library Association (TLA) Maverick Graphic Novels Reading List 
• CCBC Choices 
• YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Nominee 
• CBC Teen Choice Book of the Year Award Nominee 
• Cybils Children's & Young Adult Blogger Awards Nominee 
• IndieFab Award Finalist


"Beyer’s debut captures her introspection with earnest, appealing black-and-white panels. . .Wary college-bound students will find comfort in this sincere and endearing look at freshman year." - Booklist

"An autobiographical graphic pastiche recounts the author's experience of leaving her rural hometown and going to art school in a new city. . .her story is easy to relate to and recommended..." - Kirkus Reviews

"Refreshing and unusual . . . . [Little Fish is] about the joys of being in a new place as a college freshman. It's about new starts, simple pleasures, rapid friendships created by being in a similar set of circumstances and the mix of stress and exhilaration that a challenging environment creates."@- Rob Clough, High-Low Comics@

"I think it should be everyone's back-to-school read . . . Meeting new friends, falling for someone for the first time, questioning your artistic and life-plan choices, beginning to understand the world outside of your personal bubble-it's all here, in compulsively readable form. I laughed, I nodded along when I recognized my own experiences, and, most of all, I wished I could send it back in time to high school me. I would have felt so much more prepared to conquer freshman year If I'd read this book." - Stephanie Kuehnert, Rookie

"Beyer's autobiographical coming-of-age story is a wonderful mix of comics, lists, collages, journal entries and more. Utterly charming!" - Atomic Books

"This sweet, charmingly simple graphic novel will resonate with many young adults preparing to go off to school, and maybe even more strongly with those who have left their college years behind" - ForeWord Reviews

Children's Literature - Leona Illig
The twenty-eight year old writer and artist, now living in Philadelphia, looks back on her life when she was eighteen, struggling with life and college in Baltimore. She was a girl from a small town in Michigan suddenly transported to the big city, and big adjustments were in store for her. She tells about her adventures using a variety of formats: journal entries, drawings, lists, collages, and more. In many ways the novel resembles a Facebook page or an illustrated blog, and the experience of reading the book is somewhat like surfing the web, which should appeal to teenagers. Some pages offer full illustrations or panels, while the text uses different fonts and styles to make things interesting. Everything, illustrations and text, is in black and white. Ms. Beyer’s story is different from most coming-of-age books in that she paints an engaging portrait of a young, aspiring art student who draws comics and even produces her own “zines,” which are cut-and-paste independent magazines. She is also a compulsive list-maker and, like most girls her age, is trying to figure out boys and what makes relationships work. The book is valuable in that it shows the reader that many young people have the same doubts and insecurities, and that it is all right to feel hesitant about new experiences. The drawback to the book is that, like surfing the Internet, the plot is more like a series of events, with true dramatic, emotional climax at the end. Nevertheless, because of its unique style and its healthy, practical outlook on life, this book should be of interest to many teenage girls. Reviewer: Leona Illig; Ages 12 up.
VOYA, August 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 3) - Lucy Schall
This charming graphic memoir, organized from Beyer’s handmade zines, an online journal, and personalized lists completed during her first year in art school, chronicles her transformation from shyness to independence. In the transition from her sheltered life in small town Paw Paw, Michigan, to urban Baltimore, Maryland, she is torn between the familiar, warm, comfort of her first eighteen years and radically divergent, but exciting, days filled with art, thrifting, new friends, and challenging questions. Her quiet, gradual inner growth nurtured by strong roots and fueled by her own self-effacing work ethic, as well as her open-mindedness, lead her to a believable balance symbolized by her decision to finally cut off her braids. Beyer is devoid of self-destructive angst and social ambition. Her story, an instructive read for both teens and adults facing or experiencing change, is a strong addition to any young adult collection. She perceives her parents’ divorce two years before she leaves home, the school’s crushing workload, and her social unease as challenges to grow into a better person, not a completely different one. Her seamless organization of graphics, lists, and journal entries offers a reflective, realistic, and sometimes humorous look at that important freshman year. The final page is a beginning as well as a conclusion. Beyer separates substance from fluff and takes life, not herself, seriously. Reviewer: Lucy Schall; Ages 12 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Beyer left her family and friends in the small Michigan town of Paw Paw for art school in Baltimore at age 18. A self-described quiet, quirky girl with spectacles who perennially styled her hair in two long plaits, she longed for college life in a large metropolitan city. The author shares the ups and downs of her freshman year: homesickness, making new friends, the added pressure of academic expectations, and weighing a decision to change majors. A large portion of her story involves her relationships with a group of friends and a budding romance with fellow student Daniel. Beyer was a compulsive list maker and a large portion of her story is told through a series of chronologically arranged lists and reflective observations, both handwritten and typewritten (on a traditional typewriter). Her written entries are the main storytelling vehicle, supplemented with black-and-white line drawings in graphic-novel-style panels. The art serves to illustrate the pages of text more than to move the story forward. Readers leaving home for the first time will relate to the author as she shares her ambivalent feelings in comparing home and childhood friends versus college life and a newfound circle of friends.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Kirkus Reviews
An autobiographical graphic pastiche recounts the author's experience of leaving her rural hometown and going to art school in a new city. Ramsey spent her first 18 years in the quiet town of Paw Paw, Mich., but she knew that she wanted to leave her comfort zone. After applying to a number of art schools--which she chose based on location and relative vibrancy of their punk scenes--she selects an art institute in Baltimore. She makes friends easily and shares her experiences of freshman year: being silly, pulling all-nighters and hanging out. As the semester wanes, the group's dynamics shift, and Ramsey finds herself about to start her summer with a new boyfriend, Daniel. Ramsey's an obsessive list-keeper, and her recollections are liberally peppered with catalogs of things she thinks about, memories drawn as comics and snippets from her journal. Being in her head is an intensely personal experience, but readers may feel oddly disconnected from her social life and her interplay with her peers. One of her professors tells her that she has "such a wall around [herself]"; this seems especially true in many places throughout her memoir. Despite its split personality, her story is easy to relate to and recommended for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Laura Lee Gulledge. (Graphic memoir. 13 & up)

Product Details

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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121 MB
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Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Ramsey Beyer is a comic artist and illustrator living in Philadelphia, PA. She self-published her autobiographical graphic novel, Year One, accounting for her first year in Philadelphia. Beyer has had illustrated and written work published in several books, including Fanzines by Teal Triggs, Make A Zine!, and Don't Leave Your Friends Behind. Little Fish: A Memoir From a Different Kind of Year is her first traditionally published book. Known for her pet portraits, she is also the illustrator of Daisy to the Rescue by Jeff Campbell.

Ramsey Beyer is a comic artist and freelance illustrator living in Philadelphia. She is the author and illustrator of two autobiographical graphic novels, Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year (Zest, 2013), and Year One (2012). Beyer has also been published in several books, including Fanzines by Teal Triggs, Make a Zine!, and Don't Leave Your Friends Behind.

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Little Fish: A Memoir 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
SandraHeptinstall More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was so much fun to read. I laughed my way through most of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Little Fish is a graphic novel / memoir about the author's first year in art school, covering her transition from a small Michigan high school to a big East Coast city art college. Ms. Beyer tells her story through a blend of journal entries and lists that she created at the time with recent comic-style artwork and collages. We discover that she's a DIY indie/punk sort of student, who is also very thoughtful and conscientious. Ramsey's insight into finding herself academically, as well as finding friendships and discovering a sweet romantic interest is very refreshing in its sincerity and innocence. If you seek a memoir about college life that isn't all about sarcasm, partying and bad behavior, this is your book. For ages 12+.